UMO Adding Women’s Flag Football as Varsity Sport

UMO Adding Women’s Flag Football as Varsity Sport

GREENVILLE, S.C. – The University of Mount Olive will add Women’s Flag Football as its 25th varsity intercollegiate sport, with its first season of competition set to start in Spring 2026 in the Conference Carolinas, as announced by league commissioner Chris Colvin and Director of Athletics Joey Higginbotham on Tuesday morning.

Conference Carolinas is the first NCAA Division I or II conference to sponsor women’s flag football, and the second NCAA conference, joining Division III’s Atlantic East.

The league will have at least six institutions in the inaugural season. Conference member Emmanuel University, who has already announced the addition of women’s flag football, will be joined by Chowan, new member Ferrum, King, Lees-McRae and Mount Olive.

The conference’s addition of women’s flag football has been coordinated with the National Football League (NFL) and RCX Sports.

“The University of Mount Olive is excited to join the first conference-sponsored women’s flag football league in NCAA Division II. This provides Mount Olive an opportunity to join a sport that is quickly emerging around the country and in North Carolina while giving us the chance to showcase these female student-athletes at the collegiate level,” said Higginbotham. “We expect these incoming student-athletes to accomplish our goals in the classroom and on the field. Conference Carolinas continues to provide an extraordinary environment for the growth of competitive intercollegiate athletics.”

Women’s flag football is expected to be considered by the NCAA as an emerging sport in the next year. In 2024-25, it is anticipated that 10 NCAA institutions will be competing at the varsity level across all three divisions. At the NAIA level, there are 24 institutions currently participating in women’s flag football and seven at the NJCAA level. At the high school level, 11 states currently sanction women’s flag football, including Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida while North Carolina has pilot programs and South Carolina has shown interest. Over the last five years, participation in high school girls flag football has grown by nearly 15 percent and nearly 18 percent for ages 6-17.

“Conference Carolinas is excited to lead the way and become the first NCAA Division II conference to sponsor women’s flag football,” Conference Carolinas Commissioner Chris Colvin said. “With significant support from the National Football League (NFL), the sport is growing at the youth, high school, and collegiate levels. We are excited to be on the front lines of giving females across the country another phenomenal competitive opportunity.”

The average roster size is around 25 players that will play 7-on-7. A contest will consist of four 12-minute quarters on a field that is 80×40 yards. The offense has four downs to cross each 20-yard line for a first down with an option to punt at third down.

If unsuccessful, teams surrender possession to their opponent. Teams score six points for a touchdown and can gain an extra one or two points for a set play from the five- or 10-yard lines. Players will wear tightly fixed flag belts with sockets and two pop flags on either side of their hips.

The NFL is a huge supporter of the growth of flag football. Numerous NFL facilities and stadiums have been utilized for competitions and clinics while several players have attended and engaged with athletes to grow the sport.

Across the country this past year, more than 700,000 youth took part in NFL FLAG leagues, with nearly 500,000 of those athletes being female, and 11 states have now sanctioned girls flag football as championship sports, thanks to the work of the NFL and RCX Sports, the official operator of NFL FLAG.

“This is a pivotal moment in women’s college flag football,” said Stephanie Kwok, NFL Vice President of Flag Football. “As the first NCAA Division II conference to sponsor women’s flag football, Conference Carolina is demonstrating the popularity of this fast-growing sport and playing a key role in expanding the pathways for women to play at an elite level.”

“At RCX Sports, we’re committed to breaking down barriers and making sports available for everyone, regardless of gender, economic background or geographic positioning,” said RCX Sports CEO Izell Reese. “The addition of female flag football to the Conference Carolinas athletic schedule is another major step forward for female athletes to continue chasing their dreams. RCX sports is proud to support Conference Carolinas in bringing this game to the Division II level.”